Maxwell Ochoo

Trees offer nutritious feeds and increased profit for fish farmers

By Irene Sinoya, World Vision Communications Specialist, Kenya

It is a scorching hot day in Kenya’s Homabay County. The fiery sun is causing people to sweat profusely as they carry on with their daily activities.

However, at Maxwell’s home in Lambwe, the shade from a wide variety of tree species within his compound provides a serene and cool environment.

Being a smallholder farmer, 34-year-old Maxwell has majorly ventured into tree and fish farming.

He has a well-established tree nursery with a wide variety of tree species including Sesban, Calliandra, Casuarina, Leucaena and Moringa.

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Maxwell has a well-established tree nursery with a wide variety of tree species at his home in Homa Bay County, Kenya. © World Vision Photo/Irene Sinoya

 

In addition, Maxwell has fruit trees - such as mango and pawpaw, - as well ornamental trees. He also has a fishpond with over 1000 tilapia fish. 

Thanks to World Vision’s Regreening Africa project, which is funded by the European Union, he was able to acquire quality fingerlings and tree seedlings.

However, while trying to balance family needs with farming requirements, Maxwell realised that buying vegetables as a source of vitamins for both his family and fish was too expensive to maintain

“Just like human beings, fish also require vitamins. Being a family man, buying vegetables as a vitamin supplement for more than a thousand fish and my children as well was unmanageable,” says Maxwell.

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Maxwell introducing fish feeds into the pond at his home in Lambwe, Homa Bay County. He rears over 1000 tilapia fish. © World Vision Photo/Irene Sinoya

 

In order to avoid unnecessary expenses, Maxwell and his 33-year-old wife Dolphine resorted to establishing a vegetable garden.

The vegetables were depleted within a short period because the rate of consumption by the fish was very high.

This started creating conflict between Maxwell and his wife. She argued that sooner or later, their children would lack vegetables to eat.

“The fish was feeding on vegetables a lot. I Iearned that a vegetable garden would not be of much help to me. Instead of providing a solution, it was now creating tension between my wife and me. Therefore, I had to look for an alternative source of vitamins for the fish and leave the vegetable garden specifically for my family,” explains Maxwell.

Since he had many trees within his compound, he decided to explore the suitability of their leaves as sources of vitamins for his fish.

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Due to the scarcity of vegetables, Maxwell decided to explore the suitability of tree leaves as sources of vitamins for his fish in Homa Bay County, Kenya.© World Vision Photo/Irene Sinoya

 

He plucked leaves from the Leucaena tree and dried them, prior to introducing them into the fishpond. But after three days, the leaves were still floating on the water. They had been completely ignored by the fish.

The second time, he opted to use dried leaves from the Sesbania trees. Again, to his disappointment, they were not consumed.

But Maxwell did not give up. During the third attempt, he decided to mix the Calliandra leaves with fish feeds before introducing them into the pond.

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Maxwell mixing Calliandra leaves with fish feeds before introducing them into the pond at his home in Homa Bay County, Kenya. © World Vision Photo/Irene Sinoya

 

The following day, he was pleasantly surprised when he discovered that not even a single leaf was floating on the water. They had all been consumed by the fish.

For Maxwell, this was the best thing to ever happen in his life. He had found a vitamin supplement for fish; no more fights with his wife. The burden of buying vegetables for fish would also be totally eradicated.

After one month of properly feeding the fish, Maxwell realised that they had grown so fast and that their sizes were bigger than those reared by his friends.

“I noted that the fish matured faster, ahead of the scheduled time. When I visited friends that had gotten the fingerlings at the same time as me, I noticed that their fish was still small in size. I knew that the difference was caused by the Calliandra leaves,” says Maxwell happily.

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Calliandra leaves accelerate the maturity rate of fish which increases profit for fish farmers. © World Vision Photo/Irene Sinoya

 

He started getting increased profits after selling the mature fish. Maxwell has also cut on management costs as his fish mature fast, leading to early harvests.

Now, Maxwell can comfortably pay school fees for his children and also provide household necessities for his family.

Through selling tree seedlings and fish, Maxwell was able to reap huge profits that enabled him to construct a good house for his family.

“I am happy to have moved into a new house. Initially, we used to stay in my mother in-law’s house, which was not good. Luckily, with the trees and fish projects that we have, my husband bought iron sheets and built a new house for us. Now we are very comfortable and happy,” says Dolphine, Maxwell’s wife.

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Maxwell(left),his wife Dolphine (right) with their three children at their home in Homa Bay County, Kenya. Through selling tree seedlings and fish, they were able to construct a good house.© World Vision Photo/Irene Sinoya

 

During the dry season when there is no grass, Maxwell does not struggle to look for cattle feeds.  He still uses the Calliandra leaves as fodder for his livestock. This has led to increased milk production by his cows.

He is empowering other farmers who have fishponds to plant different species of trees like Calliandra, which accelerate the maturity rate of fish, thus helping to increase profit.